Getting a film into theaters can often be a long, cumbersome and extremely tedious task. Take Taika Waititi’s latest film, Boy, for example. After debuting at the Sundance Film Festival all the way back in 2010 (where it absolutely wowed audiences, including our own Travis George), the film struggled to find its way into theaters here stateside, despite becoming its native New Zealand’s highest grossing picture of all time. However, following a small release last year, Waititi and distributors Kino Lorber have brought the film onto home video, and it’s a welcome breath of fresh air in a film landscape that is directly in the middle of yet another empty and laborious summer movie season.
Waititi’s follow-up to his solid debut feature, Eagle vs. Shark, Boy is a decidedly smaller scale picture, focusing on a child’s coming of age instead of a burgeoning romance. We are introduced to a young man named Boy (James Rolleston), a kid of no more than 11 years of age, living in Waihau Bay in New Zealand. Living with a collection of cousins, his brother Rocky and their grandmother, Boy’s father is absent, and has been ever since Boy’s mother passed away during childbirth. With a penchant for day dreaming and Michael Jackson, Boy lives a relatively normal life filled with dancing and trying to gather the guts to talk to girls. That is, until his father re-appears. Joined by his fellow Crazy Horses gang members, Alamein (Taika Waititi himself), shows his face once again, only to turn everyone’s world completely upside down. A beautifully sentimental meditation on childhood, heroes and family, Boy is a truly underrated wonder from a director who deserves to be considered as a truly intriguing filmmaker.
Inherently a deeply moving look at family, Waititi’s film is both immensely personal and powerfully surreal. With Boy dreaming of his father as everything from a diver to a war veteran, Waititi allows his film to straddle the line between realistic familial drama and charming surreal, child-like comedy. Charming actually being the perfect descriptor for this film, cinematographer Adam Clark gives the film a playful aesthetic that fits for a filmmaker in Waititi, who is best known for surreal flights of comedic fancy. Also the writer for the film, Waititi is easily the biggest star here, not only giving the film’s aesthetic a swift mixture of realism and experimentation, but also mixing different themes within his screenplay as well as playing with different tones ranging from laugh inducing dance numbers to truly powerful and angst ridden dramatic sequences. Toss in an entire second act that could itself play as a heartbreaking tale of a father and son bonding after years away, and you have a film that plays as well as a drama as it does a gut busting comedy.
And it is all thanks to the top notch performances at its core. Both Rolleston and Waititi turn in fantastic performances here as Boy and Alamein respectively, with Rolleston absolutely stealing the show. Rolleston imbues within Boy a sense of realism and truth that both elates during the second act’s series of excursions between father and son, and devastates during the latter part of the film’s moving deconstruction of that same relationship. There is one sequence, involving Boy confronting his father , in the third act that is one of the more affecting moments we’ve seen between a father and son on screen in some time, and it is entirely due to the truth behind the performance given by Rolleston. Waititi is no slouch either, starting off as an oddly charismatic figure, ultimately taking a turn as the film’s narrative moves forward. It’s a powerfully layered performance from an actor who is, at least on screen, best known for being the best buddy for Ryan Reynolds in Green Lantern.
Clocking in at just shy of 90 minutes, the film is a briskly paced stunner of a motion picture, that is now finally available in a superb Kino Blu-ray release. The transfer is solid, giving the film a hazy sense of naturalism and the soundtrack is as rocking as ever. Relatively bare bones otherwise, the release does include the Oscar nominated short film, Two Cars, One Night, which itself is just as superb as the feature it is connected with.
Overall, with three years now passed since the film’s debut at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, Boy remains one of the most surprising and exciting independent features to hit in quite some time. Deeply personal, emotionally resonant and genuinely charming, Taika Waititi paints a beautiful portrait of a father-son relationship on the brink. Driven by top notch performances, this is a must own for fans of smaller stories, focusing on characters, interesting and human themes, and gorgeous photography. Just a real wonder, this film.